Indonesia’s Personalized Civil-Military Relations

Indonesia’s Personalized Civil-Military Relations

DENPASAR, Indonesia -- The appointment by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of his own brother-in-law as the new chief of the army has highlighted a trend that sees Indonesia's political leaders keen to maintain personal control of the security apparatus, while remaining averse to pushing for civilian democratic control.

Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, the younger brother of first lady Ani Yudhoyono, was sworn in on June 30. Now 56, Pramono graduated at the top of his class at the Indonesian military academy in 1980, and his background includes commanding the Siliwangi Military District in West Java as well as stints in senior positions at the Special Forces (Kopassus), before leading the Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) prior to his latest promotion.

On the strength of his resume alone, Pramono would have been a legitimately viable candidate. Moreover, he, unlike many of his fellow officers, was never accused of wrongdoing over the past decade. Local human rights groups have pointed out that he commanded a Kopassus team in Timor Leste in the run-up to the 1999 referendum on independence. Roughly 1,300 civilians were subsequently killed by militias trained and armed by the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) after the vote. Nevertheless, such a background is shared by virtually every senior member of the TNI. In the context of the TNI's tainted past -- and not yet stain-free present -- Pramono's career does not stand out as a particularly dark one.

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